[open-science] Danes step away from patenting in favour of ‘open science’ | THE News

Paweł Szczęsny ps at pawelszczesny.org
Tue Aug 15 06:21:47 UTC 2017

Dear all,

There's a whole book written on the issue of patenting entitled Gridlock
Economy (gentle introduction for non-lawyers). In short - given the role of
patents in life sciences (it's more about blocking competition than
ensuring protection), no-patent initiatives might have a minor role in
clearing the mess of IP rights in a near future. For example, iSAEC used to
patent biomarkers and immediately release the patents to public domain
exactly to ensure that the discovery would not be blocked by a slightly
modified patent application (they don't seem to follow that practice
anymore, I guess it was too expensive). That is why I really hoped
GreenXchange will take off, as that was the approach with the highest
leverage at the current state of things. Also, BiOS of Cambia doesn't seem
to be active anymore (it was an innovative way to IP licensing - it
included reshare requirements, somehow similar to AGPL license in software

In my part of the world patenting isn't that frequent. Academics prefer
(for financial reasons) to publish discoveries in a journal instead of
filling the patent. Yet they sometimes see patent applications from large
companies that cover most (not all, of course) of their discoveries after
the paper was published. All one needs to show at the patent office is the
proof that patent filling is substantially different from already published
idea. The last story of this sort crossed my news stream few weeks ago. I
don't see any way No Patent initiatives can prevent that from happening.


On Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 1:02 AM, Jenny Molloy <jcmcoppice12 at gmail.com>

> Agreed on all points, but after the patent has expired and subject to it
> not being evergreened, you don't need the permissions i.e. it is open in
> the sense we use the term. You're right, it might not be very useful after
> 20 years but some technologies are revived and others remain in use for
> long periods (albeit with later improvements that would still be
> protected). Beside the 3D-printing example, which I find quite convincing
> but I'm sure others know far more and could tell me it isn't, here is a
> list of biology-related technologies whose patents are expiring/will expire
> in the next 1-2 years and are still useful for researchers/companies I know:
>    - green fluorescent protein (several of the patent family at least)
>    and other fluorescent marker genes
>    - early quantitative PCR methods
>    - various widely used genetic transformation techniques
>    - early microarray techniques
> On the fair use issue, some of us don't live in the US and therefore don't
> have that luxury anyway ;). As I understand it, the US has a weaker
> research exemption for patented technologies than other places so you win
> some, you lose some on regional IP laws.
> I'm not advocating for patents as being somehow a better system than
> copyright or anything like that, just saying that we're stuck with those
> that already exist and should at least take advantage of the rules where we
> can. I'm a big fan of the Public Domain Review that celebrates cultural
> heritage, art and wrtiting that has entered the public domain through
> copyright expiry, but I'm also involved in data mining technologies to
> liberate data locked up by our legacy publishing system and in advocating
> that going forward we make as much as possible Open Access as possible.
> Likewise, I'm excited to see what happens with No Patent initiatives as
> well as how existing, lapsed and expired patents are used as they enter the
> public domain.
> On a patent related note, The Lens just had an update to include linkages
> between patents and the scientific papers they cite in their free search
> for DNA sequences. species and more: https://www.lens.org/lens/
> They've done an analysis of the most highly cited papers in patents for
> Nature using the tool: https://www.nature.com/press_
> releases/nature-index-2017-innovation-supplement.html
> Jenny
> On Sat, Aug 12, 2017 at 9:08 AM, Puneet Kishor <punk.kish at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> "patents have a useful property - they expire in 20 years (usually) and
>> at that point the technology is publicly and demonstrably open" –
>> perhaps… let's examine:
>> 1. Patents, once issued, are always public though not open in the sense
>> we use the term. The very idea of patenting is to let the world in on our
>> patented "thing" so others may get the necessary permission and use it. Of
>> course, the necessary permission may be so onerous that effectively the
>> patented technology might well be out of reach.
>> 2. Unlike copyright, the concept of fair use doesn't apply to patents,
>> for the most part.
>> 3. Twenty years, while substantially less than life+70, is still a very
>> long time. If you have a hard time imagining where the world will be 20
>> years from now, just think of where we were 20 years ago. Most of the
>> technologies I use today were either still very new or not even invented in
>> 1997. In some fields 20 years might well mean extinction.
>> 4. If 20 years were not already enough, unscrupulous firms use what is
>> called "greening of patents" wherein they make slight modifications and
>> reapply for a new patent which, if they get it, is good for another 20
>> years. This happens a lot in medical/drugs field.
>> --
>> Puneet Kishor
>> Just Another Creative Commoner
>> http://punkish.org/About
>> On Aug 11, 2017, at 7:04 PM, Jenny Molloy <jcmcoppice12 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> One other thing to point out is that patents have a useful property -
>> they expire in 20 years (usually) and at that point the technology is
>> publicly and demonstrably open. An excellent situation compared to
>> copyright.
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